Quincy to the Choctawhatchee river

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Here is why riding a Green Axle touring bike is not like riding a scooter or driving a car. Hills and Grades. When you are driving a car, you press on the accelerator to maintain a constant speed up hills and grades. On an ebike, you shouldn’t. Instead, you are on an energy budget, of say 300 watts. As you go up the grade, the controller will feed more power to the motor to attempt to keep the speed up. Don’t let it. Instead, downshift to lower gears until you are within your “energy budget” Mine is between 250 to 350 watts. You’ll slow down just like, ahemmm, a real bicycle!

Why do this? Because the number of amp hours your battery gas tank holds is directly related to how fast you draw them out. Maintain a low, even draw, and you will go much farther on the same size gas tank.

Of course, you must have patience for going slower up hills. All cyclists have that! So just let the motor power you on up a little slower!

News Flash! The city of Marianna Florida, in anticipation of the need, has constructed an ebike charging facility. This facility is designed to charge up to seventy five touring ebicyclists at one time, with picnic tables, a sheltering roof, and even a stage for those wishing to share their adventures. This is rapidly becoming a destination for those e-cycling the Southern Tier.
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There are so so many churches out here. Competition for believers must be fierce. I ride past two churches right next to each other. Both have big signs. The first sign says “True happiness is not dependant on things of this world”. The second sign says “Come pray with us and celebrate abundance.”

Richard TrueLove stops to talk to me in the library. He walked the exact journey I am now undertaking. He tells me the story I hear so often, the universal traveler story:

“When I left Miami I was bitter, really down on people and life. I traveled without money, without knowing where I was going to stay or when I was going to eat. Along the way I found that I am always taken care of.” (Richard called this his spirit family) I discovered how many really good people there are and got a deep connection to life. Nothing ever gets me down anymore.”

Passing a field of clover:
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I come across the Choctawhatchee river and know it is time to camp. A patch of blackberries. An old train tressel. Locals fishing. Dirt roads into nowhere.

I set up camp and go skinnydipping in the brown waters. I shower and make camp and kinda, well, stay naked! There is only me, and it feels natural to be naked in the woods… That’s what the grin is about I guess.

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My camp by the Choctawhatchee river.

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4/14/2015 Live Oak Fl. to Quincy, FL.

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You know, there are no more gas stations that actually work on cars. Every station I run across with bay doors for car repair looks like this:

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And all the ones that are open look like this:

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An long timer joined me sitting on the stoop of the above store and explained it to me: “It’s the fault of computers. When cars went from points to computers it got too complicated to figure out.”

Good an answer as any. And touring cyclists don’t have cars and we enjoy snacking, so it works for us.

While Cycling

While cycling
I follow my senses.
This quiets my mind,
and drops me
on the threshold
of the big emptiness.

My little toe crosses the threshold
and finds it isn’t empty.

I’ve been looking at the face of the clock.

Here live all laws of physics and math;
fibonacci curves, fractals, calculus.

The structure creation and destruction
of the beauty
my senses perceive.

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Ghosts from the past.

The Adventure Cycling Network routes cyclists through this town. To accomodate them, this library has installed a public bike repair station in front. Gerald Barns, whose company is painting the library to improve the community, models.

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4/13/2015 Branford FL. to Live Oak, FL.

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Last night I went to fairyland. It’s in a tall deep woods about 200 feet off highway 129 below Branford, FL. Darkness comes quickly in deep woods. I was busy writing, my tent world dimly lit by laptop light, when suddenly a green light buzzed the tent! What the heck was that? I shut my laptop off and was enchanted by a cosmos of fairy stars, flitting around my homestead.

I have never seen so many fireflies. I lay on the mattress and watched them go about firefly business in shades of yellow, blue and green before sleep took me. When I woke in the dark of early morning, they were still there.

“Way down apon the Suwanee River” I love seeing the actual places of songs and stories.

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My bike feels wobbly. Oh no, two broken spokes in the back wheel. I have been hitting some hard bumps. I resist the knoweledge. “Maybe I could just ride it today and fix it later.” NO! This is the perfect time, early morning, and the perfect place, a bike trail, to do repairs. An hour later and we are on the road again. This would have been difficult for a non mechanic. Be sure you have done this drill on your ebike before touring, you’ll want efficiency.

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I am writing this part from a public library in Branford. My bike is charging in front. I am using fast wifi. I am comfortable, wow, it’s been a while. Here’s the new drill: Use the offline Open Street Maps (OSM) to get to a small town, then use google maps to find and get to the library.

The farms further north are growng peanuts rather than tomatoes and citrus. 7-11 is now selling pecan cookies and pie. The stench of a chicken processing plant lingers for miles. Smelly trucks carrying listless white chickens stacked high in wire cages roar past. Small towns are filled with polite large people in loud smelly trucks. On the upscale backstreets Americas old Victorian style homes remember a different past, and on the poor back streets decaying single wides shelter those who have had limited opportunities.

Rain rounds out the evening.

4/12/2015 North of Gainsville

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An easy routine is emerging. I’ve made one general rule for ebike touring: Whenever you stop to eat, rest, shop or sightsee, plug in. Using dual chargers on the Green Axle ebike allows me to pump in almost 1000 watts of power when the battery is low, and as it fills, 750 to 500 watts of power. So for an hour of fast charge I get about three hours of run time. I can work with that.

Also, except for staying at my sisters house overnight, I have stealth camped every night. This means no overnight ebike charging. This has been a non-issue.

I do keep my cell phone and tablet on a charger night and day- they charge from the ebike battery. I start out the day with a full cell phone charge, but the battery level in the cell phone still drops all day as the GPS consumes a lot of power…..

Now that the nervous jitteries are gone, I find ebiking to be relaxing. The road unwinds through my senses leaving them alert, still. On a bike tour, the journey is the destination. And what is the destination? The aliveness, the present tense, the unfolding, the letting go, the simplification of living. Electric bike touring leaves me less fatigued and so more able to enjoy the subtler perceptions. Electric bike touring leaves me fully exposed to beauty and hardship. It’s not Disneyland, it’s adventure.

This easy routine means that I am not constantly checking my battery charge, nor worrying about finding an outlet. It is 10 times more difficult to find wifi than an electrical outlet. My big plans for lotsa communication are faltering.

Last night it rained. I marvel at the efficient design of tents. This thin piece of nylon is stopping the rain just a foot from my nose. The rain pats loudly. The electrical lines overhead pop and hiss.

Packing a wet tent and gear means an earlier stop the next night to give everything a chance to dry out. The tent screen, ground cloth and fly get draped over bushes while I shower and cook. In 45 minutes they are dry and ready for use. I like being in my tent. It’s a cozy, well designed portable home with great views.

There was no outside outlet, and this was my only food choice. The manager said “Sure, you can do that”.

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Part of every bike tour, and it’s no different on an ebike tour, is to stop for treasures on the road. This find was a stubby screw driver. Ten miles down the road I met a man riding his bike. The conversation turned to jobs and he said he was a handyman. So I gave him the screwdriver. Nothing wasted!

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4/10/2015 South of St Augustine a happy camper has a beach all to himself.

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Ninety One miles today, three hundred and one mile total so far.

My son Drew and I saw the leaning tower of Piza together. I saw tears in his eyes, and asked him why. He said, it’s much more precious knowing that one day it will fall.” And that is terribly poignant.

There are many splendid moments in cycling. Now the scenery is beautiful and my heart sings. But it can’t be kept, these moments keep drifting into the next moment, and soon I am in noisy stinky traffic again. This moment is here, it’s gone, there is a new one. I can’t hold it, can’t own it, can’t keep it. And that is terribly poignant.

Thank you sister Stacey for your hospitality last night. I know I eat a lot. I was wolfed from cycleing 50 miles into the wind.

Today I sail up the coast towards St. Augustine. The nervous jitteries are leaving. The frightened, over analyzing thinking is fading. I’m able to enjoy myself again.

I spend a lot of time today sorting out my GPS system. It is more critical when traveling by bike, because bike routing takes you through more turns as the streets are smaller. It is important to have a 2.1 amp USB charger. If you have one of the more common 1 amp types, the charging won’t be able to keep up with the usage and your Droid will fold.

I see an oportunity here in these abandoned boats!
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I saw this airplane and pulled into the local small town airport. It seemed unusual to see a crowd of young foreigners socializing in that environment. A young Chinese man offered to take this picture. It turns out that the USA is the cheapest place to learn to be a pilot, one third the cost of China, and these students come from all over the world.

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If you have never cycled here, this is what you are missing. Being on a bicycle, I can linger at the bridge apex taking in the view.

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This is what makes a very happy camper. This state park has luxury hotels on either side of it. This spot is 200 feet from the road, completely hidden. I went swimming, took a shower, I feel so lucky.

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Hidden from the road.

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Can you find the happy camper in this picture?
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The First Day

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Beginnings give me butterflies. I am apprehensive, worried. The unknown might upset these cozy dreams. I don’t feel prepared enough. But at some point, the ship must sail, and sail she did.

My son Drew (Fez) was there to give me a send off, I left feeling loved.

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I ran into my very cheerful friend Ray on the bike trail.

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I decided to ride at just 15 mph all day to try and lose the rushing nervous jitteries. Once in beautiful central Florida I rode through citrus and cattle and phosphate mining country. Sherpa took me 110 miles before we ran out of daylight. My math tells me Sherpa could have done close to 200 miles at that speed using pedelec. I charged him four times, only once for an hour:

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Here at a food store where I ate lunch.

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Here at a community center.

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Here at a park.

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And here at Publix while shopping for groceries.

Not a dime is spent on fuel unless you count mine. Sherpa is very well behaved, and a pleasure to ride. It seems to work well to charge Sherpa whenever I stop, and to choose stops where I can charge. I begin to feel an emerging rhythmn for the trip.

I am listening to gunfire from my camp. There are lot of rounds being fired rapidly. It makes me feel safe. I’m stealth camped in a 200 foot road-median-forest across from a police training academy, where they have their shooting range. This is the last place that a criminal would choose to roost, so it’s perfect!

What do you need an ebike with a 150 mile range for?

So my team has built these really amazing electric bikes that have a range of about 150 miles whilst carrying all kinds of gear. They are built on sturdy Yuba Mundo frames, have mid drive or hub drive motors, and carry a rebuildable battery pack made of 18650 cells ala Tesla. They have a real 12 volt wiring system so you can run real 12 volt automotive quality electric lights, charge USB devices, and run small 12 volt appliances.

Now the question is, what are they good for? Can anyone help me so I know what to do with these beauties..

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So what’s it good for?

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So what’s it good for?

Cycling around Zanzibar

Time to cycle around Zanzibar Island. We head east out of Stone Town, into traffic jamed, honking, smoke spewing roads. But after a dozen kilometers, we pass the last major town and the roads become pleasingly empty and well surfaced. We spend the first night in Menai Bay Bungalows, even though the hotel is closed, as the water pump is broken. But after a phone call to the owner, a bucket of well water, and a broom to sweep out all the dead insects and termite dust, we have a room.

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Typical Stone Town second floor.

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Indian Ocean Beach.

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Trucks like this are the main transport for most of the people.

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I found this slow moving chamellion.

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Boabobs on the beach in front of our hotel.

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African Indian Ocean Beach.

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Let’s go fishing!

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Our hotel watchman. Ramadan had started, which is when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. It is considered very rude to eat in public during the Ramadan. So our watchman took us into town for food and made sure that we were OK. He had his mom cook chapatis for us for the morning, and opened a coconut for us.

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The next day we went to a butterfly farm. Here, chrysllises are raised to be shipped via DSL to Europe where butteryflys emerge to their new home, a butterfly garden. Raising these chrysllises provides income to some 80 famailies.

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Chrysllises on a rack.

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There are two types of coconuts: This one is eaten when young, and the flesh is easily scooped out. It is totally full of coconut water and makes a large drink as well. The other coconuts, the ones we usually buy, have crispy flesh that is sweeter, and not as much water.

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Our second night is a much more expensive hotel in Kizimkazi Beach. But the room is wonderful, it has hot water, and is a great place to relax on the front porch.

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View of the ocean and rocks from the hotel.

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This is what you get for $45 a night.

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Walk along the water on hotel grounds.

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View from the hotel resterant.

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Low tide in front of the hotel.

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There are lots of interesting sea creatures to be found at low tide.

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Typical dugout vishing boat. The design probably hasn’t changed since man first took to the sea.

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The Karamba, yearning for the sea.

The next day we cycled along the east coast of Zanzibar. The road was level, well paved, and nearly empty, and we mde great time. We landed at Mustafa’s Nest, and found it very pleasant and with an expensive but good resterant, which really helps during Ramadan.

We hung out as long as possible, and left around noon. We missed a turnoff and went 18km out of our way and arrived at Santa Maria Coral after dark. Everyone always quotes ou a very high price at first, but with protest the rate can be dropped considerably. We had to cross the Chwaka Bay by “ferry”.

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Valerie and manager goofing off at Mustafa’s Nest.

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Bungalows at Mustafa’s nest. This is the most fun and friendly place we stayed so far.

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Important equipment arriving for our ferry across Chwaka Bay.

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Our dugout awaiting the rising of the tide.

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As the tide rises it needs baiing. Hmmm.

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Local fishermen gather to chat about the Mzungis.

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When we got close to the opposit shore, I jumped out to pull the boat closer and carried my bags ashore. Here is Lisa being brought ashore. “Be careful, it’s over my head.”

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Lots of new and unfinished construction on the east coast of Zanzibar. Cycling again. The tidal surge is high here, these rocks are all covered at high tide.
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You can see how the waves erode the limestone.

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Cow with a Moo sign. Cycling humor.

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The magnificent Baobob tree. These trees are all over and are so curious and remarkable.

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Close up.

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This was the cheapest hotel we could find, but we decided to try another.

Drying small fish:

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I lost my camera for the last hotel, but we stayed in Nungwi, which is on the very northern tip of Zanzibar. I took a dhow on a snorkeling tour. It was all wood, and had the classic shark fin sail. The design hasn’t changed for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It was a real treat to sail on it, and the snorkeling was fun too. The area has a number of $40 a night bungalows, and was fun to visit. A few hours ago we finished cycling into Stone Town, completing our loop around Zanzibar. We picked up ferry tickets back to Dar on the way into town.

I am happy to be coming home. I am tired of hearing “Mzungo” (foreigner) yelled at me every few minutes as I cycle, tired of yelling Jambo to all the children crying out to me. Tired of hearing “Jambo, money.”

My dreams are no longer populated with white people. Everyone is dark. I don’t even notice until I wake up and reflect. I see white people and think “how odd they look”- then realize that I look the same- but I couldn’t- but I must…

So I realize that I can never fit in, that my role is always defined for me, despite the kindness of all the people I meet. It will be a shock to return to the land of the mzungo, to be surrounded with those funny white faces again.

If you come to Tanzania, be prepared to live at a slower pace. Things rarely happen on time or as you might expect. Come here to meet people, they are happy to meet you. Come here where everything is different. Come here to see beautiful men and women with warm smiles, eager to shake your hand and talk for a little. Come here to see another way the world works.

Stone Town, Zanzibar.

We returned to Dar Es Salaam for two days via bus, then spent a few days buying gifts and getting the bike boxes built. We took the ferry over to Zanzibar island.

Zanzibar, the name conjures up exotic tropical spices and children’s stories.

Zanzibar is a smallish island off the coast of Tanzania and is part of Tanzania. It is known for Stone town, which is a world heritage site. It was once the flourishing center of the spice and the slave trade. Unlike some narrow-ally cities dating from the 1800’s this one is still quite occupied and bustling. The narrow walkways are filled with life, filled with water and mud, bikes and scooters, shops, shoppers and litter. Every carved wooden door opens to a story.

On the waterfront is the Forodhani Gardens, which is transformed into a lively fast food emporium in the evening. The garbage left from the feeding frenzy employs a half dozen women sweeping straw brooms in the early morning.

The hostels I stay in, Manch and Jambo, are western oasis in a dirty crowded landscape. It is a relief to escape the intensity of developing world life. As everywhere in Tanzania, the citizens prefer conversation rather than the quick brush off. So I get sad or ambitious stories 20 times a day along with the request for assistance. I tell them all hapana, No.

I watch the world cup soccer matches with crowds in bars and hotels. Soccer is so important to most of the world…

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Leaving Dar Es Salaam on the ferry.

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My favorite drink- fresh squeezed sugar cane juice at .30 cents a glass!

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Forodhani evening food market getting going.

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Hanging out with the locals in Forodhani.

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Most people go on a spice tour, we saw most of the spices being grown.

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Here for example is nutmeg and mace. The nutmeg is the nut, the mace is the thin red coating.

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Cloves growing.

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I’ve got a great organic makeup plant. I believe it is called ammeratto??

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Anyway you crush the seeds and it makes a red paste. It is used by Hindus for the dots, and makes a great organic lipstick. I’m sneaking some seeds in and growing some.

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Clever things to do with palm leaves.

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African beach scene near the slave caves.

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Boat building on the beach near Forodhani pavilion.

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Stone town at it’s best.

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The view from the other side of the street- from the Africa House hotel, a Zanzibar landmark for 150 years.

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Along the water in Stone Town.

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Part of the open air market. Bustling, smelly, flies, crowded. Hundreds of small vendors.

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Butcher with buffalo heads.

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Typical African work bikes outside the market.

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View from the third floor of The Dispensary. I was nearly crushed 10 minutes before this picture. I was walking between two parallel parked cars, when a large truck cut a corner too tight, pushing one car into the other. I made an adrelline fueled scramble and got out in time, but conked my head on a wall.

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View along the waterfront.

Again, the people are Tanzania’s greatest asset. I just love them.